Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Improving Food Safety? Not Really...

If you might remember this time last year, people were fighting tooth and nail to "Save Handmade", threatened by the passage of a well-intentioned, but poorly executed CPSIA. The grass-roots efforts worked and hand-made goods are still available for your enjoyment.

You may have noticed that I don't jump on a soapbox here. I try really hard not to impose my political views, my societal concerns, any of those things, on you. Occasionally, as was the case with Save Handmade, I feel I must let you know of things that our concerning me. This is one of those times.

This time, however, the threat is to the local farmers, to those people who provide an alternative to grocery stores and give you the opportunity to try something new - doing it the old-fashioned way. The Food Safety Modernization Act (Senate bill S.510) is aimed at industrial food producers and major food importers. Unfortunately, it is written in such as way that it will cripple the Local Farmers and Small Organic Food producers. That means your local Farmer's Market, your CSA, the provider of your grass-fed beef, and non-industrial poultry.

Look, like anyone else, I was appalled by the recall of peanut butter, the recall of spinach, the recall of melamine tainted pet food, toothpaste, and baby formula. As I see it, however, none of these problems were caused by our local farmers. No, these horrific lapses of food safety were the result of poor oversight over the industrial food complex and, therefore, any bill that passes should be targeted at them, not the small farmer selling his goods at our local farmer's market. This bill currently before the Senate seems to be a thinly veiled attempt to eliminate local farmers, our CSAs, our local providers of eggs and dairy - all of them...it is a frontal assault by the industrial food complex aimed directly at those who are providing an alternative.

According to Pete Kennedy, Esq - President of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, these are some of the problems with the bill facing the Senate right now:

"Food safety problems lie with the industrial food processors and food imports, not with local producers. FDA should not be given any additional regulatory power over the local food system than what the agency has at present.

S.510 calls for federal regulation of how farmers grow and harvest product. Farmers selling food directly to local markets are inherently transparent and accountable to their customers, and there is no reason to impose these regulations on them.

Based on FDA's track record, it is likely that such rules will also discriminate against diversified sustainable farms that produce animals and crops in complementary systems.

S.510 expands FDA's powers over food processors, regardless of their size, scale, or distribution. FDA oversight of small, local food processors is overreaching and unnecessary.

Small processors selling into local markets do not need federal oversight, unlike the large, industrial, multi-sourced supply chains that are the cause of most foodborne illnesses and food recalls.

S.510 applies a complex Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system to even the smallest local processors, imposing onerous paperwork and record-keeping on these small businesses.

Applying a HACCP system to local foods facilities processing for local markets, as well as farmers making value-added products, could undermine and extinguish these emerging small businesses attempting to bring healthy local foods to American consumers.

In fact, when HAACP was applied to the meat packing industry, it was instrumental in reducing the number of smaller regional and local meat packers, yet failed to increase the number of independent, objective inspectors in giant meat slaughtering and packing facilities.

Bottom line: One size does not fit all when considering food safety bills!

Local foods businesses are not the same as animal factories or mega-farms that sell products into industrial scale national and international markets, and should not be regulated the same way!"

If you're anything like me, this isn't a topic you've spent a lot of time thinking about. If we don't start thinking about it now, however, our rights to determine where we want to source our food will be taken away from us, under the guise of looking out for the common good. I urge you to look into the bill currently in the Senate. I think you'll agree it will not do what we intend to have done.

If you do agree that this bill would not be good for our local farmers, please contact your Senator and urge him/her to vote NO on S.510. If you want to find out who your senator is, just go to www.senate.gov. If you'd like to read the bill in its entirety, please click here, if you want to read a summary, click here. (Oh, and don't be confused...this bill was in the House of Representatives as H.R. 2749, which has already passed!)


Alicia said...

You're like me, I don't normally "speak up" about these like this, but I can understand when there are times when we can't keep our mouths shut. I'm glad you put it out here, so we can be informed!! I will be looking into it too. Ugh..it's just another way of the government taking control!

Tootsie said...

I agree with Alicia...all the way!

loveaphid said...

Already on it! If they destroy local farms, then you can't eat locally and that would be BAD!